Geminid Meteor Shower 2017: When, Where & How to See It
One of the brightest recurring meteor showers in the sky happens in mid-to-late December, and that is the Geminids. This year, due to the almost New Moon, they should be a great sight to see, and it is happening on 14th December.
But first, what is a Meteor Shower?
A meteor occurs when an asteroid or meteoroid becomes very visible when it enters the Earth’s atmosphere. This often happens in the mesosphere at an approximate range of 75km to 100km. The visibility of a meteor is due to the heat produced by the ram pressure created upon entry into the atmosphere. The majority of meteors are small which means that many meteors do not generate enough ram pressure to show visible signs when entering the atmosphere. A meteor is more of a visible event than an object itself. A fireball is a name for an exceptionally bright meteor. The International Astronomical Union defines a fireball as “a meteor brighter than any of the planets,” which is a magnitude -4 or higher.
A bolide has no exact definition and is synonymous to a fireball. The term is often used amongst geologists who use the word about a very large impactor. A meteorite is a portion of a meteoroid that survives the original passage through the atmosphere and impact to the earth without being destroyed. Meteoroids are often found in association with impact craters, though the impactor may be vaporized leaving nothing behind. Meteor particles can stay in the Atmosphere for several months. These particles affect the climate by scattering radiation into the upper atmosphere.
So what is Geminids Meteor Shower?
Having been considered one of the best meteor showers; the Geminids occurs every year as the meteors are bright, and can be seen across the sky at rates as high as 120 meteors an hour. Fewer meteors will be visible under light-polluted skies. According to known records, the Geminid meteor is about 200 years old, and the first one recorded occurred in 1833 from a riverboat on the Mississippi River. It’s also growing stronger because Jupiter’s gravity has tugged the stream of particles from the shower’s source closer to Earth over the centuries.
When to see the Geminids
Just as the name Geminids implies, they appear to emanate from the bright constellation Gemini. Gemini is easy to spot by the three stars in the hunter’s belt, to find them look in the northeastern sky for the constellation Orion. Then look just up high in the northeast sky to the right of Orion to see Gemini. Although the meteors can appear all across the sky and appear to stream away from Gemini; to see meteors with longer “tails,” you should look slightly away from Gemini. 2 a.m. local time is when the meteors tend to peak.
Where do the Geminids come from?
In an article by Space.com, it explains that “Geminids are associated with the near-Earth object 3200 Phaethon, an asteroid that may have undergone a collision with another object in the distant past to produce the stream of particles that Earth runs into — creating the meteor shower.The asteroid orbits the sun every 1.4 years. It occasionally comes close to Earth (at a safe distance) and also passes very close to the sun, inside of Mercury’s orbit and only 0.15 astronomical units from the sun”.
Meteoroids are rocks in space that are about to collide with Earth’s atmosphere. While meteors are the ones that streak through the atmosphere and if they reach the ground the rocks are called meteorites (which can’t happen because the particles are too small to survive the trip).
How to get the best view
You don’t need binoculars or telescopes to view meteor showers, look for a comfortable spot to lie down and gaze with your bare eyes. Ideally, go to where its dark or a dark-sky area. You also have to stay for like 20-30 minutes for your eyes to adjust to the dark, then sit back and enjoy the show.
Good luck with your stargazing and share your photos with us.
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